It wasn’t a happy July 4th at the Yoder Unit 1H Marcellus well in Leroy Township (Bradford County), PA. The well, in the process of being drilled by Chief Oil and Gas, experienced a leak of 4,700 gallons of hydrochloric acid from a faulty valve. Most of the acid stayed on the drill pad, but some of it ran off into a local “plunge pool” constructed by Chief and killed some minnows. Fortunately, the acid never reached nearby Towanda Creek and did not create a safety hazard for nearby landowners.
The state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed Thursday that it has been overseeing the cleanup of a 4,700-gallon hydrochloric acid spill that occurred on Wednesday afternoon at the Chief Oil and Gas Yoder well pad on Southside Road in Leroy Township.
DEP said the incident caused a minor fish kill.
According to a news release from Daniel Spadoni, community relations coordinator with DEP, the cause of the spill appears to be related to valve failure on a tank holding the acid, but remains under investigation. After the incident was brought to DEP’s attention by Chief, two members of DEP’s Emergency Response Team were dispatched to the site. The well pad is located along Southside Road near the intersection with Crofut Road.
The news release from DEP says “the acid breached containment and flowed off the well pad.”
“Some of the acid was collected in a sedimentation pond, while the remainder flowed through a field and some reached a small tributary to Towanda Creek causing a minor fish kill. Dams were constructed in the tributary before any acid reached Towanda Creek.”
In addition, the news release notes that Chief contractors applied lime to the acid to neutralize it prior to recovery, and interceptor trenches were installed to ensure it did not reach Towanda Creek. Excavation of contaminated soil began the evening of July 4 and is continuing, according to DEP.
DEP Oil and Gas and Environmental Cleanup program staff were on site Thursday collecting soil and water samples and continuing to monitor the cleanup, the news release noted.(1)
This was the statement released by Chief:
An HCL release of appx 4,700 gallons occurred at appx 1pm on July 4 at the Yoder well site in Leroy Twp, Bradford Co. The release was discovered by personnel on site. DEP and the Bradford County EMS were notified and response measures were implemented. It is important to note that the majority of the release, around 4,000 gallons was held to the initial containment area on the pad site. All pad sites are lined with a thick plastic so any inadvertent release of fluids can be remedied at the pad site. Appx 700–800 gallons left the initial containment area and traveled into a sediment pond, which is designed as an additional safety measure to contain any runoff from the pad site. Appx 50 gallons left the sediment pond but appears to have remained localized to a small plunge pool next to the sediment pond.
The appropriate clean up crews were quickly dispatched and are on site working. Additional berms of precautionary protection were put in place as crews were neutralizing and vacuuming the pond. The release was quickly contained and cleanup is near completion. After cleanup is complete, any needed remediation efforts will be determined and that work will begin.
There were no drilling or fracing operations taking place at the time of the release. Landowners in the immediate area were notified, however there was never an issue of safety.
The release is under investigation by Frac Tech, Chief and the DEP, but it appears that a valve on the back of the tanker containing the HCL was found partially open which resulted in the release.
There is no evidence that any runoff entered Towanda Creek and all pH readings have been normal. DEP and the Fish and Boat Commission have been on site and, along with Chief, are continuing to monitor. There were a few dead minnows observed, localized in the small plunge pool, but there was no evidence of HCL and normal pH readings and live fish were noted further downstream in the tributary that leads to Towanda Creek. And again, no evidence of any runoff into Towanda Creek. Chief and DEP will continue to take readings and monitor.(2)
(1) Wilkes-Barre (PA) The Citizens’ Voice (Jul 6, 2012) – Acid spills off well pad
(2) StateImpact Pennsylvania (Jul 5, 2012) – 4,700 Gallons Of Acid Spill At Bradford County Drilling Site